In 1985, the Chicago Bears ran the table, going 15-1 in the regular season and then crushing all opposition in the postseason on their way to winning Super Bowl XX.
One of the teams they vanquished was the New York Giants. On a windy January day at Soldier Field, the Monsters of the Midway shut out Big Blue, 21-0, in the NFC Divisional Round. The loss was a deflating one for the Giants and one they’d keep on the forefront of their minds for years to come.
This was the game where the ball blew away from punter Sean Landeta and quarterback Phil Simms was sacked six times for 60 yards and mauled repeatedly. The Giants gained just 32 yards on the ground in the game. It was ugly.
The next season, the Giants were atop the NFC and awaited their revenge in the NFC Championship Game, but the Bears didn’t hold up their end, losing to the Washington Redskins in the divisional round.
The Giants wouldn’t get a shot at the Bears until the divisional round after the 1990 season. The 13-3 Giants hosted the 12-5 Bears at Giants Stadium and the Bears were no longer the team they were and Buddy Ryan ran his 4-6 defense. Ryan had left the Bears after the 1985 season to take the head coaching job in Philadelphia.
Both teams were playing with their backup quarterbacks. Mike Tomczak was filling in for Jim Harbaugh, who was knocked out in Week 14 with a shoulder injury. The Giants were led by Jeff Hostetler, taking over for Phil Simms, who sustained a foot injury late in the season.
The Giants’ defense was up to the task of throttling Tomczak and Chicago’s Pro Bowl running back Neal Anderson, holding him to 19 yards rushing and the Bears to a measly 11 first downs. Twice in the game, the Giants stonewalled the Bears on the 1-yard-line.
The difference was coaching. Giants head coach Bill Parcells and defensive coordinator Bill Belichick decided to switch to a 4-3 front from their 3-4 alignment to combat the run-heavy Bears. It worked.
The Giants held the football for nearly 39 minutes, which would be their modus operandi all postseason. Hostetler threw two touchdowns and ran for another despite taking some hard hits from the Bears defense. He carried six times for 43 yards, five times for a first down and once for the touchdown.
The final was Giants 31, Bears 3 as Chicago had the tables turned on them by the surging Giants. The revenge was sweet, although it would have been nice to exact that revenge on Jim McMahon and Buddy Ryan.
“I didn’t think they would be able to beat us,” said Bears head coach Mike Ditka.
Beat them they did. It was as convincing a win as the Giants have ever had in the postseason.
The Giants were favored here, and the game was expected to be low-scoring. But to the delight of the crowd of 77,025, the largest ever to watch a football game at Giants Stadium, the Giants kept doing everything right.
The victory propelled the Giants to the NFC Championship Game in San Francisco the next week where the 49ers were aiming for a “three-peat” after winning the Super Bowl the prior two seasons. That went badly for them, too, losing to the Giants, 15-13, thanks to five Matt Bahr field goals.